Benjamin Franklin shaped the character of the new American nation as writer, scientist, humorist, civil leader, international celebrity, inventor, patriot, printer, economist, philosopher diplomat, and businessman and was one of the popular founding fathers of free America. He worked all his life as conscience-keeper of the nation. Adams was vice president under George Washington and later became President. He became popular in X, Y, Z fever against France. During his presidency, he faced the French hostilities in the sea and after the initial war he preferred long negotiations. He lost to Jefferson in the next election.
Andrew Jackson became a national hero in 1812, and he believed in strong presidency. He used ‘pocket veto’ to kill legislations and refused to sanction the recharter of Bank of United States. His most unpopular move cleared 100 million acres of land belonging to American natives, who were thrown out of their home and hearth. But Jackson thought it was necessary for the modernization of America. Henry Clay, who said “I would rather be right than President” was much later, voted as the country’s greatest Senator, by JFK Committee. In his days he was immensely popular and was considered to be the ‘Great Pacificator’ who held together the Union.
He was the longest serving speaker of 19th century and made the office an enormously powerful one. Muckrakers were named so, by Theodore Roosevelt. These powerful journalists uncovered the dirt in public life of America, leading to today’s investigative journalism, C. C. Regier was the most impressive of them all and their moves helped President Roosevelt in getting rid of many unwanted people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the powerful President during the Second World War, was a handsome and magnetic figure. He was the only President, who was elected for the fourth time in America.
His inspiring leadership, his diplomatic maneuvers, his New Deal and farsighted policies made him one of the most popular Presidents of America. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, America needed a strong figure at the helm and he filled that post perfectly. When the long ailing President died, it is believed that the entire free world mourned his death. Lyndon B. Johnson was Vice President under Kennedy and succeeded him when Kennedy was assassinated. He managed the Civil Rights Bill, urged people to build a great society, and tried hard to be the people’s President.
Even though he was never as popular as his charismatic predecessor, he won with the widest margin, only to be unpopular in Vietnam War embroilment. Franklin and Adams belonged to the 18th century when America was going through the turbulent days of colonialism and then, the uncertain independence. It was necessary to shape the conscience of the nation, mainly because, till then, Americans were looked down upon by the world as a nation of criminals escaping from punishment. Their wars against Native Americans have not made them exactly popular. Under the circumstances, both have rendered yeomen service.
Jackson, Clay and Muckrakers belonged to the 19th century, and were involved in nation building, which was the need of the hour. They had to fight their political battles, as American democracy was not yet strong and they had to bring down corruption and misuse of Government, which they did. Roosevelt and Johnson belonged to much more modern 20th century, dealing with Second World War, Communism, Cold War, space achievements and freedom of colonies. Shape of the world changed after Second World War and these Presidents tried hard to keep the international arena from being dominated by Communism.
Roosevelt was the best leader, not just among them, but also as the most powerful figure in the first half of the 20th century. He led the war, preserved liberty and democracy, because it was clear in the end that the war-weary Britain would not have managed to do so, on her own. He stood like a rock, led his reluctant nation into the turmoil, and his dealings with the allies are legendary. He had strength, moral power, right values and opportunity to utilize them. He still remains one of the shining examples of leadership.
1. Cunliffe, Marcus (1969), American Presidents and the Presidency, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London.